Ripping up the Rosie rules of life? Learning to improvise

Rosanna Machado | February 13, 2020


I love organising whether that’s my own life, my friends or events and I have a rule for everything. Yet what I have learnt is that the most meaningful exchanges with friends, colleagues or clients come from improvising. When we go into a situation and instead of pushing through our pre-determined agenda, we listen, adapt and improvise based on the signals that we get from others.

Improvisation may fill a lot of you with dread. We’re hardwired to plan; planning is good and it’s scary when we don’t know what we will face. However, I do think that you can plan to improvise and equip yourselves with the tools that means you go into situations more prepared.

So how do you plan for it?

  • Before any exchange, think about the people involved. What are their motivations? How will they react to your goal? Do you have any flexibility in what you are trying to achieve or in how it is achieved? What do you know about the personalities and social styles you are dealing with?
  • During the exchange, really listen to what’s going on. Pick up on other visual and tonal cues to get behind the emotions in the room. Be aware of your own emotions and how you respond to them. Adapt your behaviour based on what you hear or see.
  • After the exchange, think about how it went. How did you feel? How did the others react? What went well? What could you have done differently? What have you learnt?
  • Encourage a culture of regular feedback – good as well as constructive feedback and make it specific so that people feel supported and can constantly grow

In a world where everyone is busy, technology is making us do things quicker and multi-tasking has become a badge of honour, when it comes to human interaction, I would encourage you to do the opposite:

  • Slow down
  • Don’t make assumptions about yourself, others and situations – these are constantly changing depending on stress levels, fatigue, the project in hand, group dynamics. Go into situations with an open mind
  • Listen – really listen to what’s going on
  • Improvise based on what you hear and the signals that you are receiving

It can be scary, we have to be a bit more vulnerable, step out of our comfort zone but you can equip yourself with all the tools, and if you do, you will form stronger relationships and get better outcomes. I won’t be ripping up the rules of life but will make sure that sometimes the rule is simply to improvise!